Top ranking representatives from Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerarbaijan and the European Union sat at the table yesterday to discuss adding Turkmenistan, reportedly the holder of world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves, to a $7 billion project that will carry the Azeri gas to Turkey.
The move comes at a time when Turkmenistan is seeking to ease its exports dependency to Russia, its leading market, and Turkey and Europe are looking for ways to diversify their supply.
Speaking after talks in Turkmenistan’s Asghabat, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said a structure that would carry Turkmen gas through Azerbaijan in a bid to ease trade was planned, referring to a trans-Caspian pipeline project. «We are a candidate to buy Turkmen gas,» he said.
The Trans-Anatolia Pipeline (TANAP) project, which was signed in June, is currently a Turkey-Azerbaijan initiative only.
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) holds an 80 percent stake in TANAP, while Turkey’s natural gas distributor Botaş holds a 15 percent stake, and Turkey’s national oil and gas company (TPAO) controls 5 percent.
Turkey and Azerbaijan also want to export gas to Europe with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project and a new planned Nabucco competition to win a bid to carry the commodity from Turkey to further markets.
The TANAP project is planned to reach an annual capacity of 60 billion meters cubed annually, starting with 16 billion initially, but the giant project requires extra resources other than the Azeri gas.
Turkmenistan’s Energy Minister Myrat Artykow, Azerbaijan’s Industry & Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev, European Union’s Energy Commissioner Energy Guenther Oettinger, and Yıldız were present at yesterday’s talks.
«Turkmenistan gas cannot stay out of the region’s gas movement ... We talked about how the Turkmen gas could be included in this project within the frame of energy security,» Yıldız was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency after a separate meeting with Turkmenistan President Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov,.
Yıldız aslo said he observed that the EU was also willing to engage in the project.
Öttinger’s spokesperson Marlene Holzner told Reuters after the meeting that the EU was waiting for a guarantee from Turkmenistan on supply. However, commenting on the planned trans-Caspian line, Holzner said the EU would neither own such a pipeline nor pay for it.
A trans-Caspian pipeline project is not a new idea, but countries with shores on the energy-rich sea have yet to reach any resolution on the issue, with Russia constituting the main opposition.
Still, a route for a pipeline project under the Caspian could be agreed by Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan without contradicting the political status of the sea, and private companies could also be involved in the project, Yıldız said yesterday.
Russian and Turkmenistan have been facing mutual energy disputes both on price and capacity issues. Russia had reached a major deal with Ashgabat in 2009 to resume natural gas trade after halt. Russia’s Gazprom has since then signed significant deals with the Central Asian country.
For its part, Turkmenistan has repeatedly announced its ambition to diversify its supplies by signing pipeline deals, even including one that passes through a risky Afghanistan route.